February 11, 1996
Web posted at: 10:00 EST (1500 GMT)
SARAJEVO (CNN) -- Richard Holbrooke, the top U.S. mediator for Bosnian affairs, arrived in Sarajevo Sunday to try to restore full compliance with the Dayton peace agreement.
Holbrooke returned to the Balkans after a week marked by a lack of cooperation by the Bosnian Serb military with NATO and violent protests in Mostar, a town in southern Herzegovina. Both events threatened the stability of the peace accord that Holbrooke brokered.
Holbrooke said he was in Sarajevo to "insist on full compliance" to the peace agreement. (68K AIFF sound or 68K WAV sound)
The peace agreement negotiated in Dayton, Ohio, ended 42 months of war by dividing Bosnia into a Serb republic and a federation of Bosnia's Muslims and Croats.
The U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo said Holbrooke is traveling with his negotiating team and the State Department's top human rights expert, John Shattuck. Holbrooke will meet with Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic.
Embassy officials said Holbrooke's full itinerary is still unclear, but he will leave Sarajevo later Sunday, most likely for the Serbian capital of Belgrade.
The officials also said Holbrooke will meet with the commander of the international peacekeeping force in Bosnia-Herzegovina, U.S. Adm. Leighton Smith, and former Bosnian Premier Haris Silajdzic.
Much of the tension in the area revolves around the detention of two Serb army officers accused by the Bosnian government of war crimes. Also deep divisions in Mostar threaten to undermine the Muslim-Croat federation.
The fragility of the federation grew increasingly apparent after this week's impasse, described by Holbrooke as a "serious challenge to the Dayton agreement."
"We consider this as the first serious challenge to the Dayton agreement. All three parties are still saying they will comply, but they are arguing over what compliance means. We are here to help them straighten it out," Holbrooke said.
On the eve of Holbrooke's visit, there were some signs that the crisis was being resolved.
Late Saturday, Bosnian government authorities released four of the eight Bosnian Serb troops in custody.
Bosnian government police had arrested the eight Bosnian Serb soldiers, who apparently strayed into areas under their control. Among them were two senior officers, suspected of war crimes by the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague.
Their detention prompted an array of protest from Serbs, and Bosnian Serb army chief Ratko Mladic ordered his forces to break off relations with the NATO-led peace Implementation Force.
However, Bosnian President Izetbegovic delivered a surprise statement Saturday evening on Bosnian government television, vowing to keep the two senior Serb officers in custody even if it jeopardizes the peace process.
"We will not release war criminals even if it would put the peace in question. That's our standpoint," the Sunday edition of Dnevni Avaz, a Sarajevo daily newspaper, quoted Izetbegovic as saying in Tuzla.
Reuters news service contributed to this report.
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